Hawaii lawmakers are considering bills this year that would fundamentally change how judges, the attorney general and lieutenant governor are chosen.

There’s a laundry list of pros and cons to appointing these positions versus letting voters decide. No hearings have been scheduled yet, but the legislation is ripe for a lively debate.

Instead of being appointed by the governor or chief justice of the Supreme Court, with the consent of the Senate, Senate Bill 2238 proposes giving voters the power to elect judges to six-year terms during the general election.

Senator Keith S.C. Keith-Agaran asks questions to attorney general candidate. 13 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran is the lead sponsor on bills to change how Hawaii’s judges, attorney general and lieutenant governor are chosen. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The measure was introduced by Sens. Gil Keith-Agaran, Donovan Dela Cruz, Brickwood Galuteria, Lorraine Inouye, Michelle Kidani, Clarence Nishihara, Maile Shimabukuro and Glenn Wakai.

House Speaker Joe Souki has introduced the same legislation on the House side by request.

No hearings have been scheduled yet in either chamber. On the Senate side, it’s first stop is the Judiciary and Labor Committee, which Keith-Agaran chairs.

Another major question being put forward is whether Hawaii should elect the state attorney general, the chief legal officer of the state, rather than let the governor make the appointment with the consent of the Senate.

Senate Bill 2418 says the attorney general shall be elected to a term of four years by voters at a special nonpartisan election held every four years in conjunction with a general election.

The measure was introduced by Keith-Agaran, Inouye, Dela Cruz, Kidani, Shimabukuro, Kalani English and Donna Mercado Kim. Souki proposed the same measure on the Hosue side by request.

Rather than electing the lieutenant governor, lawmakers are looking at making that an appointed position.

Senate Bill 2419 proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the governor to appoint a person from the same political party as a running mate for lieutenant governor in the general election.

Keith-Agaran, Inouye, Kidani, English, Galuteria and Shimabukuro introduced the bill. Souki proposed the same measure on the House side.

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